The Opposite of Certainty by Janine Urbaniak Reid– Book Review

Janine Reid is a self-described control freak — at least until her life begins to spiral out of control. Her son, Mason, is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although it is slow growing, he eventually needs surgery, and then months of rehab learning to talk and walk again. Even after his recovery, he continues to have problems with his short term memory. Later Janine requires cancer surgery of her own — a double mastectomy.

The Opposite of Certainty: Fear, Faith, and Life in Between by [Janine Urbaniak Reid, Anne Lamott]

These devastating health issues have an effect on the rest of the family, putting pressure on Janine’s marriage and relationships with her other two children. She slowly learns to let go of her expectation that she can be a perfect wife and mother, or that by being “good” she can guarantee the safety of her family members.

The book is well written and easy to read. Any parent will sympathize with Janine’s feelings and dilemmas. However, for me, at least, her spiritual struggles seem a bit distant. She sometimes refers to God as a “higher power” (probably because she is the child of an alcoholic) and there are few, if any references to Jesus or the Bible. She does speak about the mystery of God’s ways, and our inability to ever completely understand them — instead we must learn to accept and experience grace whenever it is offered. However, it’s more a book about navigating serious health issues than growing spiritually.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. It will resonate with anyone going through difficult health issues.

For other spiritual memoirs see these posts:

Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey–Book Review

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken–Book Review

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

Few situations carry more uncertainty than a cancer diagnosis.  As a child, Tiffany Smiling is told she has a brain tumor and less than a year to live.  Through prayer and the perseverance of her parents, a surgeon willing to operate is found, and she survives with additional challenges — partial paralysis on one side.  Eventually she makes an amazing recovery, finishes high school and starts college.  She has the  same life goals as many teenage girls — she imagines she will graduate, marry, have children and establish a part time business.  God has other plans!

After breaking up with her boyfriend, Tiffany does start a business (frozen self-serve yogurt).  She feels called to do something for orphans and is drawn to children in Guatemala.  She begins with fundraising and God leads her on an adventurous journey to places and people she never imagined.  She learns the value of saying “yes” to God.

The book discusses some important topics that all Christians should take seriously.  Things like:

  • What happens when our plans are not God’s plan for us?
  • How can I serve God where I am?
  • Are we willing to sacrifice our comfort and privilege to follow God’s leading?
  • How can we work out God’s plan by cooperating with others?
  • Are we truly passionate about saving souls?
  • How do we hear the voice of God in our own lives?
  • Why we shouldn’t compare myself to others.

There are discussion questions and a “dream challenge” for each chapter.  This could easily be used in a small group setting.  Tiffany’s story will inspire and motivate other millennials as well as older folks to take a hard look at their purpose and calling as Christians.


I read this as a free e-book I received from BookBub.

For more on ministry to orphans see this post:

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis–Book Review